Records of Islamic Relief Worldwide

Scope and Content

Records created by Islamic Relief Worldwide including global headquarters based in Birmingham, UK, fundraising offices in London and other UK regional branches and materials collected from international offices. Includes, publications, ephemera and posters, video and administrative records relating to fundraising activities and international humanitarian and development programmes.

Administrative / Biographical History

Islamic Relief was founded in 1984 in Birmingham by medical student Hany El Banna in response to famine in East Africa. He and a group of other young Muslim volunteers raised Islamic Relief's first funds through collections at mosques, friends and family and other Islamic associations. The volunteers were able to raise £135,000 and established three international projects in Islamic Relief's first year of operation. These were two chicken farms in Sudan, a shipment of biscuits and vitamins also to Sudan and a shipment of wheat flour to Mauritania.

The organisation's first headquarters comprised a rented one-room office inside a community centre on Moseley Road, Birmingham. It was run by growing group of committed volunteers who were known to work long into the night on project coordinating and fundraising. In addition to early emergency appeals in aid of famine in Sudan (1988) flooding and cyclone relief in Bangladesh (1991) earthquake relief to Iran (1991) and to Gulf War refugees in Jordan (1990-1992) fundraising often centred around the seasonal observances of Ramadan (a sacred month of fasting in Islam) and Qurbani (sacrifice, pertaining to animal slaughter in memory of Prophet Ibrahim). The Islamic principles of charitable giving through zakat (a form of alms-giving and religious tax) and sadaqah (voluntary charity) were also key tenets of fundraising work. An additional key aspect of Islamic Relief's programme established at this time was its orphan sponsorship programme which began in 1986.

By the mid-1990s Islamic Relief was transitioning from a volunteer led organisation to one employing a number of full-time professional staff. This included Hany El Banna as the organisation's first President. A global headquarters was established in Rea Street, Birmingham in 1992. Key humanitarian action in the 1990s included response to Rwanda following genocide in (1994) and relief work during conflicts in Chechnya in the Russian Federation (1994-1996) and in Bosnia (1992-1995). A number of development projects were also established at this time including water well projects in Bangladesh and community training centres for adult and child education in Sudan, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Further international fundraising offices, known as 'Partner Offices', were established throughout the 1990s including in the USA, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. A UK partner office known as 'Islamic Relief UK' was established in London from which UK fundraising became coordinated. A number of UK regional fundraising branches were also established notably in Glasgow, Bradford and the West Midlands. Key UK community fundraising events included concerts of Islamic music and the 'Islamic Relief Games', an Olympics-style sporting event in which teams from across the UK competed in events such as football, badminton and karate at the NEC in Birmingham between 1989 and 1997.
Islamic Relief continued to grow its income in the 2000s with key international programmes including humanitarian response during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As one of the largest Islamic faith-inspired NGOs in the world with an existing presence within both countries, the organisation was uniquely placed to carry out relief work in these areas. This included winter shelter programmes, work with Afghan refugees in Pakistan and distributions of food and non-food items.

Emergency response to Tsunami in Asia in 2004, in particular in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and response to a major earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan in 2006 also constituted major operations of the 2000s. Global seasonal distributions of food items during Ramadan and Qurbani remained a mainstay of work throughout the period along with programmes relating to education, water and sanitation, livelihood development and Islamic microfinance.
In the 2000s the organisations also found itself working in a world experiencing increasing Islamophobia. Islamic Relief's work on education and citizenship in the UK and in speeches given by CEO Dr Hany El Banna such as 'Positivophobia' delivered at the United Nations in 2004 and 'Diversity and Inclusion of Muslims in Society' delivered at the House of Commons in 2005 reflect these circumstances.
The organisation has been key in providing relief during conflict in Syria and in Yemen in the 2010s. Additionally, Islamic Relief has grown its advocacy and research activities in the 2010 becoming increasingly active in campaigns and projects relating gender, climate justice and international debt relief bringing a faith based perspective to these issues. To date the organisation has a presence in over 40 countries worldwide and had an income of over £148 million in 2020.

Access Information

Access is subject to the archive's General Access Conditions (available on request) and data protection.

All files must be reviewed before access is granted, some files may be partially of fully closed following review. An access status and statement will accompany any file that has been reviewed. If no access status is provided, this file is yet to be reviewed. If materials you wish to see have not yet been reviewed, you may request this by providing 4 weeks notice.

Materials dated less than 20 years old are generally closed to access, although special review may be requested. Materials of any date already in the public domain, such as publications and posters, are open to general access.